KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on the first signs of revolt against the leadership among unhappy Labour councillors
In what appears to be a barely-disguised challenge to the authority of the council leader, five Labour councillors have today signed a letter pressing Tony Newman to “implement a comprehensive strategy to make the borough greener, more equal and more resilient to climate change”.
Put simply: implement the promises made by Croydon Labour in its manifestos of 2018, and 2014.
The call for action to honour election promises has gone to the same Tony Newman who, for the past six years, has allowed tens of millions of pounds to be spent on a polluting waste incinerator being built and operated on the borough boundary, who continues to support airport expansion at Gatwick, who allows playing fields and green spaces to be built on, and who seems to think that solar-powered aeroplanes could soon be a solution to polluting air travel.
The dissenting councillors have been joined in their joint letter by a dozen local societies and organisations.
But under the authoritarian rule of Newman, who has been leader of the Labour group at Croydon Town Hall since 2005, such a blatant, public questioning of his ability to deliver on policies has never before been tolerated.
The letter – which can be viewed in pdf format by clicking here – has been signed by Labour councillors Nina Degrads and Stephen Mann (Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward), Muhammad Ali (Broad Green), Janet Campbell (West Thornton) and Jamie Audsley (Bensham Manor).
The inclusion of Campbell is particularly eye-catching since the first-term councillor was only promoted to full £45,000 per year membership of Newman’s cabinet team a fortnight ago.
Ali, too, is a deputy cabinet member, of whom such overt questioning of The Great Leader would not usually be expected.
The letter is largely the work of Audsley, an unusually bright and articulate member of Newman’s group at the Town Hall but one who has suffered repeated knock-backs by the authoritarian leader, including being denied the opportunity to stand as a candidate for selection to run in the London Assembly elections and, earlier this month, dropped from his position as a deputy cabinet member, without even having the news broken to him quietly in advance.
Mann, like Audsley, is a 2014 intake councillor and one whose abilities are clearly seen by the increasingly erratic Newman as a threat to his crumbling leadership, which is why he’s been frozen out of any cabinet positions and responsibilities.
Last night, a Katharine Street source said, “Newman’s badly rattled by the democratically-elected mayor campaign, but he’s had a series of complete disasters on his watch – children’s services, planning rows, Fairfield Halls and Brick by Brick. And now the council is broke.
“Councillors are increasingly concerned that Newman could lose Labour control of the Town Hall – and this letter can be seen as a first public challenge of his authority in an effort to turn things around.
“The councillors who have signed it are all relatively new to the Town Hall – not the friends and family who have kept Newman in power for far too long, not so brainwashed as to believe everything he says.
“It will be interesting to see if they ask other councillors to sign their letter.
“And to see the response from Newman.”
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